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Classic Silent Film: It (1927) – Clara Bow, Elinor Glynn – Romantic Comedy


“It” is a 1927 silent romantic comedy film which tells the story of a shop girl who sets her sights on the handsome and wealthy boss of the department store where she works. Because of this film, actress Clara Bow became a major star of the highest magnitude, and as result, became known as the “It girl”.


“It” is a 1927 silentromantic comedy film that tells the story of a shop girl who sets her sights on the handsome, wealthy boss of the department store where she works. It is based on a novella by Elinor Glyn that was originally serialized in Cosmopolitan magazine.

This film turned actress Clara Bow into a major star, and led people to label her the It girl.

The film had its world premiere in Los Angeles on January 14, 1927, followed by a New York showing on February 5, 1927. “It” was released to the general public on February 19, 1927.

The picture was considered lost for many years, but a Nitrate-copy was found in Prague in the 1960s. In 2001, “It” was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.

Spunky shopgirl Betty Lou Spence (Clara Bow) has a crush on her handsome employer, Cyrus Waltham, Jr. (Antonio Moreno), the new manager of and heir to the “world’s largest store”. However, they belong to different social classes and he is already romantically linked to blonde socialite Adela Van Norman (Jacqueline Gadsden). But Cyrus’s silly friend Monty (William Austin) notices Betty, and she uses him to get closer to Cyrus.

When Betty finally gets Cyrus’s attention, she convinces him to take her on a date to Coney Island, where he is introduced to the proletarian pleasures of roller coasters and hot dogs and has a wonderful time. At the end of the evening he tries to kiss her. She slaps his face and hurries out of his car and into her flat, but then peeks out her window at him as he is leaving.

The next day, meddling welfare workers are trying to take away the baby of Betty’s sickly roommate Molly (Priscilla Bonner). To protect her friend, Betty bravely claims that the baby is in fact hers. Unfortunately, this is overheard by Monty, who tells Cyrus. Although he is in love with her, Cyrus offers her an “arrangement” that includes everything but marriage. Shocked and humiliated, Betty Lou refuses, quits her job, and resolves to forget Cyrus. When she learns from Monty about Cyrus’s misunderstanding, she fumes and vows to teach her former beau a lesson.

When Cyrus hosts a yachting excursion, Betty Lou makes Monty take her along, masquerading as “Miss Van Cortland”. Cyrus at first wants to remove her from the ship, but he cannot long resist Betty Lou’s it factor; he eventually corners her and proposes marriage, but she gets him back, by telling him that she’d “… rather marry his office boy,” which accomplishes her goal, but breaks her heart. He then learns the truth about the baby and leaves Monty at the yacht’s helm to find her. Monty crashes the yacht into a fishing boat, tossing both Betty Lou and Adela into the water. Betty Lou saves Adela, punching her in the face when she panics and threatens to drown them both. At the end of the film, she and Cyrus reconcile on the anchor of the yacht, with the first two letters of the ship’s name, Itola, between them. Monty and Adela are upset at losing their friends, but it is implied they pursue a relationship with each other as the film ends.

Thames Silents is a series of releases (theatrical, broadcast and home video) of films from the silent era produced by the British ITV contractor Thames Television. Kevin Brownlow and David Gill were the two main people involved in the project

The collaboration between Brownlow and Gill had begun with the Thames documentary series Hollywood (1980), a thirteen part exploration of the silent era. It was an enormous success, and generated a degree of renewed interest in silent cinema. Subsequently, Thames screened the teams two subsequent television series, Unknown Chaplin and Buster Keaton: A Hard Act to Follow, plus the one-off Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius examining silent comedy.

In conjunction with several US organisations, the Thames Silents project restored full-length silent films, often released for limited cinema screenings. These began with Abel Gance’s Napoléon (1927) in 1980, a French epic for which Brownlow has a special affection. Later examples include Chaplin, Keaton and Lloyd comedies, and films by other significant figures from the period such as Douglas Fairbanks, Rudolph Valentino, Erich von Stroheim, Rex Ingram, and D.W. Griffith. Napoleon was one of Channel Four’s earliest broadcasts, and many of the films were released on home video. The composer Carl Davis was commissioned to write new scores for almost all of the releases.

Thames Silents continued, via Brownlow’s Photoplay Productions, since 1990; Thames Television lost its ITV franchise in December 1992. It is no longer used as an imprint by FremantleMedia, the ultimate owners of Thames.

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